Sunday, July 29, 2018

Connected. Created. (2018-07-29, Sunday-17)

29  July 2018    /   17th Sunday Ordinary Time, Year B

•• 2 Kings 4:42-44   •• Ephesians 4:1-6   •• + John 6:1-15  ••       Title:  Connected. Created. (Soccer, Thailand, Humanae Vitae)

[__01.01__]    In this reflection on the miracle, I’d like to touch on the:
·        Recent inspiring example of what happened in Thailand, the rescue of the boys from the cave.
·        A challenging church teaching.
·        A return to Thailand to conclude.
[__01.02__]    It was a miracle that there were both loaves (bread) and fishes left over after the feeding of the 5,000 by Jesus. This was not only a nice
[►CONNECTION]  there was also  new life & [►CREATIVITY] .
            The miracle –new life of the miracle brings both a CONNECTION & & SATISFIED FOLLOWERS (who were previously hungry) and CREATIVITY of new benefits, so much abundance.
            We might see this abundance, God’s  blessing to us.
            This abundant CREATIVITY is also signified in God’s mercy for us … that we can always turn to him for forgiveness and that he lays down his life for our sins, no matter how guilty or ashamed we might feel. This is God’s abundant blessing, what is always remaining.  This mercy connects and creates and re-creates us.
[__01.03__]    In Thailand – in southeast Asia – there was a beautiful moment of CONNECTION + CREATIVITY,  for the boys who were trapped.
            The 12 soccer players and their coach rescued in mid-July of the boys, the soccer team in Thailand, who were trapped 17 days underground (6 miles) in a cave. At first, it seemed they might be there for much longer.
            That any of the 12 of the young players + their coach – 13 team members in all – were rescued would have been  a good CONNECTION, given the conditions, that they were all rescued alive and healthy is a sign of ingenuity and CREATIVITY, an abundance of good fortune, of new life.
[__02__]    I’d like to reflect on the aspiration and hope we all have not only for CONNECTIONS  in life but also for a CREATIVITY.
[__03__]    This year, 2018, marks the the 50th anniversary of an important church teaching of about family life, married life, family planning and the importance of love and life.
          This is Paul VI’s teaching published as Humanae Vitae in 1968.
          Pope Paul VI was teaching us, reminding us of the Christian and Catholic tradition of natural family planning over and against artificial birth control and pharmaceutical contraception.
          This was a teaching to help us to connect, to connect to each other and God’s creative power in all of us. Pope Paul VI does not suggest that couples should have as many children as possible but that it is by natural means that we CONNECT to our spouse and that we can create –  and PROCREATE the life which God has planned.
          Through this, we come to know the full abundance of God’s plan for our lives.            Love leads to new life.
[__04__]    CREATIVITY. The Catholic/Christian ethic/morality of the dignity of life reminds us that no human person possesses or owns another – we don’t even really ‘create’ another person. God creates, we participate and procreate and care for the gift of children and life which God has already planned.
          This calls all of us to CREATIVITY and cooperation (teamwork !) .  I hope and pray that our LOURDES parish family will be a support to many families, that we as mothers, as fathers, as grandparents and families can help each other to PRAY together, STAY together, PLAY together, and if we STRAY … we can come back together for the abundance of God’s mercy.
 [__05__]    In the Thailand rescue, the saving of the boys from the cave, there were 2 aspects that helped them to survive, when it seemed that all was lost. They are also 2 aspects that we need.
          The boys demonstrated [TRANQUILITY] or peacefulness and the gift of [►TRANSLATION] or cooperation, when all seemed to be lost, when they were lost.
          We also need
          TRANQUILITY – What did we see as the first YouTube from the cave? They were video-taped praying, meditating…. In the cave, in total darkness.  (In Gospel today, we read that Jesus withdrew – in tranquility – to be alone). It’s great that we are here on Sunday morning to pray – a great Catholic tradition to pray early in the morning. To follow the Gospel, we need quiet, stillness, TRANQUILITY, to CONNECT + CONNECT THE DOTS.
          Besides TRANQUILITY, there was TRANSLATION.
          TRANSLATION.  Surely, the coach had to translate this absolutely unfamiliar cave for the boys, to give them the truth but also give them hope – to be – I am sure - a father, a mother, a leader, a psychologist, and a nurse + physician, and a … translator.
          But, they also needed an actual bilingual translator and there was only 1 boy – 11 years old - who could speak English and CONNECT w/ the British / English-speaking divers who found them.
          We need others to guide us and lead us and challenge us.    We also need “translation” at times. Translation of what we think is real to what is actually real.
          Do we not need our spouses – and our children --- help us – even when they do not say a word – help us to know what is real and important?  We delight in having the world seen and translated by a child.  A child notices things we do not see; declares thing we do not say.  That’s a successful translation and new life !
          With this TRANQUILITY, there was TRANSLATION, there could also be TEAMWORK … the  harmonious, international cooperation that led to the rescue.
          I hope and pray the Jesus’ teaching and the Catholic teaching on your life and my life reminds us that we are loved, that we are the GOAL of God’s love and called to make others the GOAL of our love.
            Connected. Created. [__fin__]

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Shepherds. Gifted or Giving? (2018-07-22)

16th Sunday Ordinary Time, Year B

••Jeremiah 23:1-6     •• Psalm 23  •• Ephesians 2:13-18  •• + Mark 6:30-34  ••

Title:  Shepherds:  Good. Gifted. Giving.

[__00__]   The shepherd is supposed to care about – and care for – the environment, the people in his or environment or ecosystem. The shepherd is a servant and is called to care not for superficial appearance but for how things really are.
          A shepherd cares. Jesus the Good Shepherd cares for us.
          I’d like to reflect on this ecosystem & Gospel, in 3 parts :
          “PRIUS” ecosystem– Toyota
          “PASTOR-SHEPHERD” ecosystem– church & family.
          “PERSONAL” ecosystem -
[__01.1__]    1st. THE PRIUS ECOSYSTEM.  The Toyota Prius Effect.  (Freakonomics Blog, “Conspicuous Consumption and the Prius Effect” April 21, 2011)
            Several years ago (in April 2011), Toyota sold its 1 millionth Prius hybrid [car] in the U.S. In 10 years, this strange-looking [car] vehicle with the revolutionary engine has claimed a spot among the best-selling cars. Pretty impressive.
            But, some researchers have noticed something …
            Honda, Ford, Nissan and other car makers sell hybrids, but you can’t pick (discern)  them out on the road (the Civic hybrid, for instance, looks just like a Civic). The Prius is unmistakable (distinct appearance).  It marks whoever is driving it as someone who cares about the environment; it’s an act of “conspicuous conservation,” ….
            ….  A sort of “keeping up with the Joneses”-type concept but applied to efforts to make society better. I [compete] with my neighbors to donate to a charity, for instance, or to reduce energy conservation or environmental impacts.
[__01.2__]     The Toyota Prius researchers were trying to discover if people are really willing to sacrifice, say, comfort for the sake of a healthy environment if no one notices.  Some people – I’m not saying any of you do this – buy the Toyota Prius to get noticed. Just an example. I’m not anti-Toyota or anti-Prius.
            But, the goal of our lives is not to be SUCCESSFUL or SEEN, but to be SAVED.
            It’s not about how things look, but how things are. Or, in another way, not about being GIFTED but being GOOD.
            The readings today are about virtue and being good, even if we do not get noticed.  It’s a message to shepherds not limited to priests.
            The message of “woe to the shepherds”  (Jeremiah 23:1) or [warning to the shepherds] is not a just a pop-up-ad on our screens, but personal call to our consciences, and for the ecosystem and habitat of the church.
            To remember that speaking the truth, or sacrificing ourselves for another and real SALVATION is not being being GIFTED but being good. Not about being VICTORIOUS, but being VIRTUOUS.
            Parents, you - as shepherds - teach your children about care and caring for others – people + environment/ecosystem – but not just to get noticed or known. Not to show that they are GIFTED, but to give without counting the cost.
            It is better to give than to receive.
            It is better to give than to be gifted.
            All of us need prayers in our calling to be guides and shepherds.  
            On the morning of my high school graduation, I awoke with a huge hangover, and had drunk way too much the night before with my friends, illegally, immaturely, of course.
            And, my mother and father went to the events of the day. I was turning various shades of green. Not green like a Toyota Prius, the other green.  That was on the outside (exterior).
            On the inside, I felt even worse and also felt embarrassed, guilty. And, I was guilty.
            But, this was not about how it “looked” …I had to come to terms what it really was.
            What I recall, also, that my mother and father betrayed absolutely not one quantum-particle of embarrassment or guilt to be with me. This was all on me. And, they were nice to me that day. They did not complain or seem bothered in the least to be seen in public with me.
            It was an example to me of GOOD SHEPHERDING. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. This was an example of GOOD SHEPHERDING.
            They got me in and out alive from high school graduation, cap and gown and diploma. I even went to college.
            Later, my father gave me a serious talk about taking responsibility for my actions and the consequences that alcohol, partying can have. You might miss something important.
            He was honest. He did not ask my opinion. He did not ask me how this happened. I think he asked me what I drank and if I knew how much.
            He was straight with me and it made all the difference.
            In other words, it does not matter – James Ferry - how SMART you are. You can still SIN.
            It does not matter how GIFTED we are. Goodness is more important.
            Or how SERIOUS and SUCCESSFUL we are. You or I can still lose our souls or hurt someone else.
[__04__]  Jesus is not the [►GIFTED] shepherd. He is the good shepherd.
            Jesus is the giving shepherd; he is not the [►GIFTED] shepherd.
            Jesus is the Good Shepherd who leads us to streams of everlasting life and who lays down his life and gives us an example so that we may go and do likewise, to make a true gift from ourselves, of ourselves..


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Prophets. How Do You Know? (2018-07-08)

8 July 2018     /    14th Sunday Ordinary Time, Year B

•• Ezekiel 2:2-5    •• Psalm 123  •• 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 •• + Mark 6:1-6a  ••

Title:  How Do You Know?

 [__01__]    How do you know if a major event, concert sporting event – Super Bowl or World Cup – is taking place at the Meadowlands, Met Life Stadium?
          We know not only by watching the news but also by our experience on the roads and highways. We want to KNOW before we GO.
          You know – we know – based on the traffic patterns and our need to avoid the Route 3 and NJ Turnpike interchange, especially before and after the event.  We might, however, get lucky and travel through the Meadowlands during the event … because everyone is parked and inside.

 [__02__]    How do you know? We know based on what we see.
Nevertheless, we cannot measure the success or effectiveness of any such event based only on the people– attendance figures – or what the crowd may be doing or not doing.

[__03__]   In the Gospel of Mark – of last Sunday – and this Sunday – we observe that the Lord draws a crowd and attracts people.
          Last Sunday, he attracted the synagogue official, Jairus, and the woman suffering from the hemorrhage.  But, what we also observe is that both Jairus and the woman stand out by their confident attitude toward Jesus.
          The crowd, on the other hand, does not expect much.
          In this Sunday’s Gospel, the crowd – at large – had a similar attitude.
          This time, the crowd is the Nazareth – hometown community – of Jesus.  They should love him, adore him, right?
          This is the home field advantage, right?
          How do you know that Jesus is home in Nazareth?
          Do we know he is at home because he is accepted, welcomed, victorious? Not so much…

 [__04__]   How do we know that a prophet is in our midstIn Ezekiel, we read that the Israelites shall know that a prophet has been among them. (Ezekiel 2:5)
          Sometimes, the prophet is not welcomed but gives us something we need to know – if not immediately – at some point we need to know.  
          You and I may experience many different types of TRAFFIC DELAYS, TIME DELAYS, CONGESTION, WAITING.
          We do not always get what we want, or we do not get what we want immediately.
          This also involves the cross, taking up our cross each day.
          It may also be a prophecy, a prophet may be in our midst.
          How do we know?

[__05__]         How do I know that a prophet is in my house?

          [E.g., … ]At the time I graduated from high school and was leaving for college, my grandfather was recovering from some serious health issues. At the time, he could no longer live independently in his own home.
            My mother invited him to live at our house. This invitation and his recovery time coincided – almost exactly with my departure to go away for college.
            Now, as the eldest child in my family, I was fortunate enough to have my own room. That is, I had my own room in August. But, this room became my grandfather’s room and by Columbus Day, I was sleeping on the couch.
            A prophet was in our midst. How did I know?

[__06 __]         At the time, I did not recognize – but did not recognize later – how important it was to my mother to care for her father and to do so in our house.
            I was, in my internal attitude, no angel and recall being uncomfortable during my visits home during that time.
            However, I also learned through this experience that we have the power to bless, to serve, to forgive, and to do so not because of what a person does or delivers, but simply because the person is.
            Pope John Paul II speaks of this as the gift of self and of loving another person for his own sake, for her own sake.
            And, learning to do this first at him, we then are able to go out on the road – to go on the road – to love others.  John Henry Newman writes that private virtue – at home – is the foundation of public virtue.
            I did not know at the time, that a prophet was in my midst, was in my room.
          How do we know that a prophet is in our midst?    [__fin__]  

Memories. Miracles (2018-07-01)

1 July 2018       /   13th Sunday Ordinary Time, Year B

•• Wisdom 1:13-15    •• Psalm 30  •• 2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15 •• + Mark 5:21-43 ••

Title:  Memories. Miracles.

[__01__]   What are the miracles for? i.e., what is the purpose of a miracle…
            Have you ever been required – at a 25- or 75-year reunion – a school or class reunion to wear not only a name tag, but a photo of yourself – usually a graduation/class photo,  from 25 or 75 years ago?
            Helpful and humbling are these photos. Helpful to identify people whom we thought we would always have memorized.  And, humbling to realize how much we have changed – or not changed. I say “not changed” because – while iPhone 8 camera is much better than the iPhone 3 camera,  -- there are certain image-constants – externally and internally, spiritually, for you and me– over the years. We do not get re-programmed.
            However, we do get “recovered” – by being attentive to our relationships – in love of God and love of neighbor – and love of classmates and family and friend. We recover, discover who we are and remember.
[__02__]        What are the miracles for?
            I suggest that the Lord was not trying to impress the crowd with a new diagnosis.
            Regarding the young girl / daughter of Jairus, the miracle was performed at home, and contrary to the opinion of the crowd. They thought Jairus “bothering the rabbi/teacher” Peter, James and John join him, signifying the presence of the Church, but the crowd was not there. The crowd did not expect anything to happen anyway.
            What Jesus taught here was the personal relationship, personal connection that was made in each of these miraculous encounters.
            But, were they seeking a relationship? Perhaps, no. Nevertheless, Jesus wants them – and us – to recognize him and his presence. To remember.
[__03__]   It could be observed that the 2 people in need of healing were not, in the language of Wells Fargo or Chase, looking for relationship-banking or to make an investment.
            There is a sense that they regard Jesus as a magician or a machine. Perhaps, an ATM with a touch screen.
Those machines are kind of magical!
            What does the woman say and do? She insists that if she can merely make contact, she will be healed. Her life, up to this point, which has not been improved by doctors has been really “touch and go”. This woman seems to want to touch and go.
            However, Jesus reminds her that it is her faith that has brought her to this point. And, her faith – confidence in God  - will continue to sustain her.
 [__04__]   Jairus, big man on campus and at the synagogue – wants “touch and go” also.  He just wants Jesus to touch and heal his daughter.
            More, touch and go, perhaps. 
[__05__]         It’s also true that Jairus and the woman display a confidence, a confident demeanor towards Jesus our Savior.
            Both of them display more faith than the surrounding crowd. The crowd is not looking for a connection. They are also brushing up against Jesus, touching him, but they are not changed by it. They just want to see and to be seen, and they want to go.
            The woman of the crowd – the marginalized woman of the crowd – believes that if she can at least touch Jesus’ garment/clothing that something memorable, something miraculous – will happen.  (pause)
[__06 __]        Is it possible to forget who someone, even someone we know very well?
            What is it …what is the method that helps you and me to remember names?
            Have you ever seen someone on TV or seen a famous actor / celebrity – in person, in the flesh – and despite all the person’s awards, Oscars, MVP’s, et cetera, you cannot – on the spot – remember his or her name.
            These spectacular achievements alone may not be enough to make the connection and recall the name.
            On the other hand, if you or I were, let’s say classmates in 1st grade – or 2nd grade – and we saw each other many decades later …and there was at least some resemblance, even if this encounter were in a crowd at Penn Station or the Prudential Center. We would pick each other out of any line-up.   We may not even need the photo-name-tag!
            I’m suggesting that Jesus is not healing us with short-term miracles but with long-term memory.
            What do we think the miracles are for?   (pause)
[__07__]      We may – naturally or logically – see a miracle as a response to TROUBLE.
            The miracle is a 911 response Jesus.  Got trouble? Ask for a miracle.
            And, I agree that it’s good to pray for God’s protection, God’s shelter – the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes – for healing and strength.
            Yet, are we not also in this faith-relationship not just for the TRANSACTION but for the INVESTMENT.  We are in this, here, not just because we are in TROUBLE, or in need of a TRANSACTION, but also out of TRUST, faith in God. In other words, we can pray that we can accept and continue the journey under troubled circumstances too.
            Yes, faith is necessary in times of trouble, but is it not also true that our faith can prosper, thrive… grow in times of trouble?
            Trust and confidence is not something we are born with, neither GENETIC nor HEREDITARY. Though it may seem otherwise, it is not passed down from generation to generation – even in families royal or wealthy.
            And we are not told to place our ultimate – greatest -  trust in God ..this was written that earthly leaders – while they need our prayers – church leaders, government leaders – all leaders  -- do not have absolute power … in Psalm 145 we read:   put not your trust in princes.”  (Psalm 145:3)
            Trust and confidence are not things you and I are born with. Rather – trust and confidence – we receive them, in some cases, that we earn or grow into them.  This confidence can be as bright as the rising sun or it may resemble darkness and sunset. Nevertheless, confidence is something we receive as a gift, to be guarded, protected, not only for ourselves but for those we love and serve. What are the miracles for?